Trenton Health Team (THT) invites community members with disabilities and those caring for them to partner with them to identify and eliminate barriers — physical and structural — preventing their full participation in community life and blocking access to helpful services and resources.

THT recently launched “Collaborating for a Healthy, Inclusive Trenton,” a community initiative supported by the New Jersey Division of Disability Services(DDS) to incorporate the skills, contributions, needs, and priorities of those with disabilities into the ongoing work of THT and community partners.

“THT staff working in the community raised a concern, saying many clients with disabilities are being overlooked and are struggling to access services,” said THT Executive Director Gregory Paulson. “We are inviting Trenton residents with disabilities to partner with us, so we can understand their challenges, address their needs, and include them in decision-making.”

Next month, THT will begin hosting a series of “listening sessions” enabling residents with disabilities to share their concerns and ideas for improving access to services and supports.

To learn more, contact THT Program Manager Stephanie Doering (609-256-4555 ext. 187). Please inform THT about any accommodations that would be helpful.

“We want to end the exclusion and invisibility experienced by people with disabilities,” said Doering, whose mother uses a wheelchair. “Our listening sessions aim to ensure those with disabilities are at the table, helping to plan programs and policies that affect our community.”

Trenton residents with disabilities are less likely to access services and support for which they are eligible than those in wealthier communities. Many are unaware services are available, while others are unable to navigate the application system and lack a strong advocate to assist them, if desired, THT has found.

A lack of accommodations also prevents many from fully participating in community life, including civic and neighborhood planning and decision-making. Such exclusion can render people with disabilities virtually invisible to policymakers, Doering said.

Residents who participate in upcoming listening sessions will become an integral part of planning, designs, and service coordination work for the long-term, with the ultimate goal of establishing new community-wide norms that welcome all. These sessions are the first steps in an ongoing effort.

In addition, THT will be conferring with neighborhood associations and other local groups, city and county policymakers and community partners through conversations and listening sessions to address how neighborhood revitalization, housing quality, COVID vaccinations, and food insecurity affects those with disabilities.

“We are intentionally adopting a more inclusive lens that includes perspectives of people with disabilities to evaluate current community services, as well as plans going forward,“ Paulson said. “Inclusivity is key to THT’s mission to enhance health and well-being in our community.”

This initiative is funded by an Inclusive Healthy Communities Grant from the Division of Disability Services, New Jersey Department of Human Services.